Dei comes from a proud military family and is a retired Air Force officer herself. She’s currently living her real-life love story in beautiful Miami, Florida, with her soul mate and their four rambunctious boys while bringing to you multicultural romance, where love is color blind.
After working with Dei, I wanted to know more about this author and how she manages it all, especially after reading her latest novel, The Chaebol’s Wife, scheduled for release on February 26th and available now for pre-order. And she graciously agreed to sit down for an interview.
Dei, thank you so much for taking time out of your no doubt crazy-busy life to share something about yourself with us all. I have so many questions, but I promise to keep them brief and limited.
Growing up as a “military brat,” I can’t help but wonder when the writing bug first bit you. Did you always want to be a writer?
I remember wanting to be the first black female astronaut to travel to Mars. But I wasn’t much of a STEM girl. I also wanted to be a ballerina, a figure skater, an airman, and a writer. I guess two out of five isn’t bad. 😊
When I was eleven, my friend and I had a writing contest based on a prompt given to us by our English teacher. We wanted to see who could write the funniest story. After completing mine, I read it to my dad, who cracked up laughing. His reaction and support were all it took for me to strive to make writing a dream come true.
But I have to add that after reading Judith McNaught’s Something Wonderful, that writing bug really took form. I’ve read the book more times than I can count. It’s a beautiful romance, and after reading it the first time, I knew then that’s what I wanted to write. My best friend in high school and I loved that book so much that we spent our after-school hours writing a screenplay because we wanted so badly for that story to be on the silver screen. Who knew there would be the age of online streaming and that books like Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series could be made into movies that can be enjoyed by all? I’m still holding out for Something Wonderful.
Speaking of books you love, do you get much opportunity to read, and if so, who are your favorite authors?
If I’m not binge-watching Korean dramas, I’m reading romance novels. My favorite traditional published authors are Lisa Kleypas, Sophia Jordan, Julia Quinn, and I will always love Judith McNaught. I also have to mention my favorite self-published authors Theodora Taylor and Thayer King. I adore the way Thayer King breaks out of the box with her stories of romance. My favorite series of hers is Bioexpa Match, a futuristic world where scientists have figured out how to effectively match people with their soul mates. This series really should be on the big screen. Love it!
Do you recall the first book or novel you read?
I do. Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby, Age 8. I always loved reading. My mom used to work at a book company, and they would rip the covers from books and throw those books away. My mother saved what she could and would bring bags and bags home. I’d read those coverless books and get lost in every story. One of my favorites was We Hate Everything But Boys by Linda Lewis.
With all you’ve got going on, what inspires you to keep writing, and is it difficult to juggle such a busy life?
What inspires me are things of interest in my life. For example, I love Asian dramas, mostly Korean. I got hooked on them back in 2016 after a devastating miscarriage, and that’s when a plot bunny for The Chaebol’s Wife came to me. I simply had to write it. Little did I know that single plot bunny would multiply…well…like a rabbit, as I now have a series planned based on this one story. And being the mother of four boys, I enjoy writing stories about mothers finding love. Additionally, writing The Chaebol’s Wife was therapeutic and helped me to overcome that loss.
On top of being a wife, mother, and writer, I’m also a freelance editor, which gives me time for another passion, and that’s reading. Being an editor, I get to read the work of aspiring writers and help them to make their work the best it can possibly be. But yes, it can sometimes become a bit too much. When that happens, I take a break from editing so I can focus on writing.
As an Air Force officer, I didn’t have that luxury, so I had to snatch opportunities to write when I could. Believe it or not, the foundation for my first book came while I was deployed to Saudi Arabia. After work hours, I had so much time on my hands that I started writing Amaranth’s story, which took ten years to complete! But as I mentioned above, now that I’m retired, my freelance schedule is flexible enough to allow me to take breaks and feed my passion for writing.
Sticking with the subject of difficulties, what have you found to be the biggest hurdle when it comes to writing?
While working on this latest book, although it was fun to write, I had to face why the reviews of my previous book were negative toward my main female character. It wasn’t until I went through the revision phase of The Chaebol’s Wife and discussed this issue with my editor (Killing It Write 😊) that I realized if I wanted to write likable female characters, I needed to go deeper into what made them who they are, and that meant me going deeper within myself. I needed to be willing to expose the hurt and pain experienced in my past and allow myself to be vulnerable. It wasn’t easy, let me tell you!
If you had the choice to go back and rewrite that first novel, would you?
Yes, because those reviews were right on point. Amaranth wasn’t a likable character. Well, to me, she was, but that’s because I saw Amaranth from the inside out. Yet, I didn’t allow the readers to see the same. She’s a single mother of a special needs child, something I relate to personally, and that’s not an easy job. I think I poured all of my frustration into this character but didn’t give her any room to grow on those pages. I didn’t allow her to show any vulnerability. I was holding back without realizing it. Now that I know that, I’d love to go back and make it right.
So, in exposing some of the vulnerability, you’ve mentioned your love of writing romance and touched on past hurts. Are you willing to share a little about that pain with us?
A majority of my heartbreak was caused by my own naïve decisions and a skewed idea of what I thought love was. Additionally, I didn’t see the value in myself and sought that through other people. I think that’s why I try to write my characters as strong, confident women.
Now that you can look back on it all, is there any advice you would like to give to your younger self or advice you would give to other aspiring writers?
Recently, I heard someone say that we are not a monolith. Growing up, I felt I had to meet this mold that society said I had to fit. I love country music, rock, metal, John Hughes films, and musicals. I wanted to write love stories that mirrored those interests regardless of whether the heroines were African American, White, Asian, or Hispanic. But I held back.
So my advice to my younger self, as well as to all the aspiring writers out there, is to write what you want to write. If you want to write about vampires, write it! If you want to write a regency romance where people of color are part of the nobility, write it! If you want to write a superhero novel where the characters’ abilities are drawn from their disability, do it!
That last one is a story I plan to write based on my four sons, who all have a genetic disease.
So, don’t let anyone dictate what type of writer you should be or the kinds of stories you should write. Don’t box yourself into whatever preconceived notions society may have. Create new worlds, fantastic adventures, and happily ever afters!
I get the impression from that last answer that someone may have tried to lead your writing in a different direction at one time. What happened?
After my first novel was published back in 2017, I immediately began working on the sequel. At the time that manuscript was ready for editing, my original editor had decided to take a break from editing, so I sent it to a substitute, and that new editor massacred my manuscript.
Although the feedback was valid, it was delivered in a way that cut deeply. I went into this funk where I didn’t want to ever look at that book again. I was paralyzed with the fear of rejection.
It wasn’t until I began writing The Chaebol’s Wife that I regained the confidence to blow the dust off that manuscript and give it a chance. I forced myself to read the comments the editor made and ignore the tone in which that advice was delivered. As I revised the manuscript, I remembered why I had fallen in love with the story in the first place, and now I can’t wait to finish it.
So, you’ve mentioned that you’re a freelance editor, and yet you use an editor yourself. Can you explain to us why you choose to use an outside editor?
I proofread and edit myself while I revise my work, then send it off to an editor as soon as I feel it’s ready. I’m fallible, as we all are, and no matter how many times I’ve looked at my manuscript, mistakes still pop up. So having a fresh set of eyes review my work to ensure that I’m not only grammatically correct but that my overall story makes sense is important. It’s kind of like that adage, “you can’t see the forest because of the trees.” When writing and revising, I’m so neck-deep in the weeds, I often miss the big picture, and having an editor read through it is important.
As a freelance editor, I believe it’s crucial for a writer to get a strong editor, not the cheapest one. Look for an editor who’s not only a Grammar Nazi, if you will, but one who gets your voice and still works to ensure your manuscript, your baby is the best that it can be. I’ve seen writers go the inexpensive route only to have to turn around and acquire the services of an experienced editor later. So save yourself the heartache. Do your due diligence and find an editor who is experienced and understands the elements of storytelling.
And speaking of projects in the works, I can’t possibly let you leave us without asking what you have in store for your readers next.
Well, as I said, I’m currently working on the sequel to Need You Now, titled Love Me Now. In this novel, we follow Loelle’s journey. She’s recovering from the trauma of an assault and must learn to trust and open her heart to love. I’m really excited about it.
Oh, that sounds like a good one. I can’t wait to read it!
Thank you so very much for sharing. We’ll be watching for the release of The Chaebol’s Wife on February 26th, and with luck, many more wonderful stories where love is color blind.
You can find Dei’s books on Amazon.com and follow her on social media. (see below).
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